Author Amy Clark
Pumpkin doughnuts. That’s all it took to get me to sign up for a scramble in the fall – one of my first official trail races. Held on a Friday afternoon in October, the course took runners through golden aspens, splashing across a creek, climbing up a steep embankment (hence, the “scramble”) and along buttery single track for just a few short miles.
In 2017, the last finisher to round the track at Western States was Karen Bonnett-Natraj. The crowd erupted in cheers as she entered the stadium, and everyone was on their feet glancing at their watches as if that would help Karen make it to the finish line under the 30-hour cutoff. With just 9 seconds to spare, she became the oldest finisher that year at age 61.
Running on trails satisfies a primal need to connect with nature. The sheer thrill of treading across dirt, rocks and roots reaches deep into the soul and leaves us wanting more. After I began running ultras, I discovered another soulful connection with the trails that I never expected.
Since turning 40 almost seven years ago, Jeff Browning has reacquainted himself with strength training. As a professional ultrarunner, he attributes his recent success to his “Tough 21” routine that helps him handle the volume and stress of 100-milers. Read and watch more about this circuit he does a few times per week.
For the past three years, I’ve been volunteering for the running club at my kids’ school. Kindergartners through fifth graders have the option of using their recess to run laps instead of play on the playground. Some of them choose to run a couple, while others run as many laps as they possibly can in their 20 minutes of free time.
While running the McDonald Forest 50K, my first ultra, I met a guy named Michael. We exchanged stories as I talked about my young twins and he told me how he’d run this particular race several times in the past. His training had recently taken a backseat because his wife was battling cancer.
With my history of previously failed 100k attempts, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Cuyamaca 100K this past Saturday. In 2016, I succumbed to an injury just one week prior to the Gorge Waterfalls 100K. In 2017, I didn’t make the cutoff at mile 50 of the Gorge. And just this past May, I missed the start of the Miwok 100K due to a downed telephone pole. I was hoping the fourth time would be a charm.
As the last stop in the Under Armour Mountain Running Series, the 50K at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort was the perfect event to kick off fall racing season in Central Oregon. With morning temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, runners had no choice but to don their winter gear at the 7 a.m. start.
Rolling up to Laz, he appeared as though he could have been part of a survey crew, or some form of civic organization in his neon yellow reflective vest. But Gary Cantrell, more commonly known as Lazarus Lake (Laz for short), is far from being associated with any government entity. He’s on a mission to walk across the United States, and he’s almost finished.
Low spots. Speed bumps. Ruts. We’ve all had them. Suddenly you find yourself in the midst of training without any mojo and weeks to go. How do you get back those butterflies you initially felt after registering on Ultrasignup.com? Here are a few ideas to conquer what you’ll eventually see as a minor blip on your way to the finish line.
Lately, my inner voice has been talking and I’m proud to say I’ve been listening. It tells me to push through summer’s intense heat when I’ve got no other options. Other times I hear a faint whisper throughout a long run telling me that things are not going as planned, and just to let it go.
Whether it’s a medical talk on foot care or the vendor expo during the Western States 100 race registration, the feeling is overwhelming: people have gathered together from all over the world to witness this annual event. But it didn’t matter whether you were a runner, crew member, pacer, volunteer or spectator – you were a part of the ultrarunning community.
It’s inevitable these days, a debilitating race anxiety hits that’s so overwhelming it’s actually scary. Heartbeats pound strong enough I feel as if my chest will shatter. Night sweats drench my pajamas. And a stomach twisted with nervous energy ensures the probability of getting any solid food down is next to nothing. Tackling new distances seems to exacerbate things, as I step into the unknown.
Spending my days alone in a home office keeps me longing for an escape, and a well-earned lunch of fresh air and vitamin D on the trails is often the highlight of my day. And while I run regularly with others, we typically don’t make a habit of analyzing our training plans. That’s where the services of a coach can come in handy. Here are a few things to consider when looking for someone to crack the proverbial whip.
During the hour just before dusk, I was on a trail in the Columbia River Gorge trying to chase a cutoff during the Gorge Waterfalls 100K. Everything around me was already dark due to the tall Douglas fir trees and thick vegetation. My headlamp was at the next aid station which still seemed miles away.
Wildfires scorched over 24,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest just west of Sisters, Oregon late last summer. Thick smoke settled in the small town of just 2,000 people, delaying the start of school and forcing many to cancel their vacation plans. So when the Peterson Ridge Rumble announced that the only change to this year’s event was a shortened section of trail on the 40-mile race course, no one was complaining.
Think back to your first year running ultramarathons. Remember those nerves that stemmed from stepping into the unknown? How many times did you ask yourself if you’d be able to go the distance? What did crossing the finish line of your very first ultra do for your confidence?
As you begin to dive into the final weeks of training for spring ultras, consider which of your running compadrés might need a crew or pacer this season. With the pacer request page recently launched on the Western States website, there’s no guarantee all registered runners will be able to bring along someone to support them during the 100-mile adventure.
Racing season has arrived. There’s no better time for those of us both old and new to the sport of ultra running to remember that trail etiquette can make or break a hard-earned race experience. Just last weekend, I was reminded how small things can have a huge impact in even the shortest of trail races.
Tucked between the metropolis of Portland, Oregon and the Northern Oregon Coast Range, sits Henry Hagg Lake. Fully stocked for year-round fishing, this tranquil body of water is nestled among the nearby 40 wineries that produce some of Oregon’s finest varietals such as Pinot Noir. While wine tasting might be a popular activity during Oregon’s rainy months, the Hagg Mud 50K & 25K is a February ultra that’s had a cult-like following for over 15 years – and for good reason.
Some may know Jorge as the General Manager of the San Francisco Running Company, while others have likely raced alongside him at a local ultra or marathon. Making headlines in 2017 as winner of both the San Francisco Marathon and Penghu Cross-Sea Marathon in Taiwan while placing 10th at UTMB CCC, Jorge had a busy year.
If you’re like me, you’ve dreamt of running a 100-mile race at some point in your life. As that dream starts to become a reality, it’s easy to dive into the dirty details. Which race will take my 100-mile virginity? Who will crew and pace me? How will I get myself and my crew to the race? Sound familiar? A never-ending list of logistics doesn’t need to get in the way of running a hundo.
The Triple Crown of 200’s is awarded to the fastest runner who completes the three original non-repetitive 200-mile trail running courses in the U.S. in under three months. This year’s winner, Mike McKnight, went and elevated the definition of extreme ultrarunning without giving in to the pain he’s worked so hard to push through.
Imagine a high school track star who dared not run distances longer than 800 meters, but would eventually grow up to find herself finishing (and winning) 50 and 100-milers. That’s exactly what Nebraskan Stacey Buckley is doing, and she’s just getting started.